Money and Words

Parshat Behar 5772
We’ve all heard the little ditty:

Sticks and stones may break my bones,

But words will never hurt me.

You were probably told this by a well-meaning adult after some bully harassed you.

Let’s see if the Torah agrees with the ditty.

This Week’s Verses

Here are the verses from this week’s parsha that I want to explore (Judaica Press translation):

Leviticus Chapter 25

14 And when you make a sale to your fellow Jew or make a purchase from the hand of your fellow Jew, you shall not wrong one another.
15 According to the number of years after the Jubilee, you shall purchase from your fellow Jew; according to the number of years of crops, he shall sell to you.
16 The more [the remaining] years, you shall increase its purchase [price], and the fewer the [remaining] years, you shall decrease its purchase [price], because he is selling you a number of crops.
17 And you shall not wrong, one man his fellow Jew, and you shall fear your God, for I am the Lord, your God.

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My Questions

Leviticus 25:14

Why does the verse say “from the hand”?

What sort of “wrong” is meant in this verse?

Leviticus 25:15-16

Verse 15 tells me that the purchase price of a field depends upon when during the 50-year Jubilee cycle the transaction occurs. What does verse 16 add to my understanding of this calculation?

Leviticus 25:17

Again in this verse is the idea of “wrong.” What does it mean here?

Why does this verse mention “you shall fear your God”?

The phrase “your God” appears twice in the English translation. Unlike Hebrew, Modern English does not distinguish between singular and plural in the second person. The first “your” is singular, but the second “your” is plural. Why the difference?

Jew and Non-Jew

I just want to note one point is passing, though I do not intend to dwell on it.

These verses talk about how a Jew is meant to treat another Jew. It would be possible to conclude that a Jew is not obligated to treat a non-Jew according to the same standard.

However, throughout the ages, Torah scholars have been careful to treat all people, Jew and non-Jew, according to the same high standard, in financial dealings and in all other circumstances.

In short, Jews who do not take care in their dealings with non-Jews are not acting in a proper manner.

Your Turn

Please share your questions and suggested answers in the comments.

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Picture Credit: from Flickr.

A Note on the Translations
The translation of Bible verses is based on the Judaica Press Tanach.
The translation of Gemara is based on the Soncino Talmud.
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